Americans for the Arts is excited to honor Churchill Downs at the BCA 10 Gala on October 2, 2018 in New York City. Click here to learn more about the BCA10.
“Louisville has long been aligned with horse racing, hospitality, bourbon and fine cuisine, all of which are celebrated at our flagship event, the Kentucky Derby. Our city’s vibrant arts community should be an attraction that makes Louisville a destination. By turning Churchill Downs Racetrack into a stage and a canvas upon which our local artists can perform, we provide a transformative experience to horse racing fans and extend the magic of the Kentucky Derby beyond the first Saturday in May.”
– Bill Carstanjen, CEO Churchill Downs, Incorporated
Churchill Downs Incorporated is a multi U.S.-state company best known for the Churchill Downs Racetrack, the home of the Kentucky Derby. For decades, Churchill Downs has been known in Louisville for its generosity to the community, which includes their steadfast support for the arts. The company prioritizes supporting arts because of their belief that immersion in the arts and opportunities for art education is a primary way to achieve prosperity in both their city and state.
Through a collaboration with Fund for the Arts and Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund, Churchill Downs transformed the Opening Night event, which kicks off Derby week, into a celebration of Greater Louisville’s arts community. By highlighting the artists of the Greater Louisville community, they have increased event attendance by 24.9 percent. In addition, the company works with Fund for the Arts to create a unique code for ticket purchasing, through which $1 of every ticket sold was donated back to Fund for the Arts. Each year, they commission a local artist to create the official poster for both the Kentucky Oaks race and Kentucky Derby. This year, Churchill Downs designated the Thursday before Kentucky Derby (Thurby) as “Kentucky Day,” and partnered with the Actors Theatre of Louisville to place Kentucky-centric art throughout the track. Working with Louisville Visual Art, Speed Art Museum, and Forecastle Foundation, they created neon light installations, fiber glass horse sculptures, and placed musical artists around the grounds.
Churchill Downs offers subsidized use of their facilities to arts organizations for holding events, campaign kickoffs, and other arts celebrations. The company also donates tickets to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks for nonprofits to use as auction items each year. On the flip side, through supporting various arts organizations, Churchill Downs can offer free and discounted arts events tickets to their staff.
Churchill Downs corporate headquarters features a gallery which showcases locally-produced art on a rotating, quarterly schedule. Employees are given the opportunity to purchase the art at a discounted rate to encourage support of local artists, as well as engage employees in art appreciation. The company also encourages employees to serve on the boards of local arts organizations. Senior leaders currently sit on the Speed Museum Board of Governors and the Board of Kentucky Shakespeare. In addition to promoting corporate support for these organizations, CEO Bill Carstanjen is a personal advocate and financial supporter of Fund for the Arts and Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.
Casey McKinney and Kacy Jackson paint murals in the paddock of Churchill Downs for Opening Night of Kentucky Derby week, courtesy Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs is the presenting sponsor of the Cultural Pass, which provides free summer access to approximately 40 venues, and expands access to summer learning opportunities for underserved populations. Through this program, over 31,000 people have gained access to cultural experiences.
By showcasing artists and working to increase accessibility to the arts, Churchill Downs has become more than a derby for its community. The company looks forward to serving as a supporter of the arts for many years to come.
Nominated by Fund for the Arts